Mayor Philip Craighead said in a statement Thursday he vetoed an ordinance passed by the Lebanon City Council on Tuesday that gives raises to some employees.
“The problem with this amended [ordinance] is that it stops short of reaching the finish line for all our employees,” Craighead said in a statement. “On this, I feel it is totally wrong to omit 20-plus employees from an across-the-board raise. The positions, which have been excluded, are those jobs which have been reorganized for cost savings; individuals who have applied and received new jobs within the city to fill vacancies, and have received certificates within their descriptions so they become more professional at what they do.
“To leave these 20 employees behind to me is much like army service mentality of never leaving a fellow soldier behind on the battlefield. This is also totally wrong in that it goes against our own personnel handbook.”
Craighead cited a section on general pay increases that said raises “shall be applied equally to all grades of the pay plan in order to maintain the same degree of spread between grades and steps within grades.”
Craighead said he vetoed the ordinance and would submit a new ordinance at the council’s regular meeting Tuesday that calls for an across-the-board step raise for city employees.
“With passage of this ordinance, the timeframe for implementation of this step raise will be the same as the one I have vetoed,” he said.
In his statement, Craighead gave justification for the raises.
“Over the past five years, raises have been few and far apart,” he said. “In reality, the employees of Lebanon have carried much of the load for our community. They have gone without pay increases, contributed to their health insurance cost, lost longevity pay and cost-of-living increases, all the while picking up the slack of job duties while our workforce for the city of Lebanon was reduced.
“Over the last five years, this administration has offered many reorganization plans, which have eliminated the need for expanding our workforce, all the while resulting in major savings for all of the city’s funds.
“During this year’s budget process sessions, it was agreed there would be no step pay increase due to the need to balance a $2.5 million shortfall. This was achieved by a property tax increase of 26 cents to balance our budget. This was the first property tax increase for Lebanon in more than 20 years, and we still have one of the lowest property tax rates in the mid-state area.
“During the last four months, an unexpected increase in revenues, along with the continued control on expenses, have gotten us to this point of even being able to consider an across-the-board pay raise.”
The Lebanon City Council met Tuesday where it approved an ordinance, with amendments, to give one-step raises to full-time city employees.
However, not all employees were included in the raises.
Councilor Kathy Warmath said she thought the ordinance was intended to give a raise to those who didn’t receive a pay increase or promotion included in the 2013-14 fiscal year budget, and that those who did receive a raise should be excluded in this one-step increase.
Craighead said he didn’t believe excluding anyone from a pay increase was the right thing to do.
“We had some restructuring, and we asked people to step up and take on more responsibilities and these people stepped up for the city,” Craighead said. “It’s not fair. I feel like we need to take care of our employees. Excluding a certain amount of people is not in my thinking.”
Councilor Tick Bryan said he thought if the council was going to give raises then it had to give them to everyone.
“Everyone up here wants employee raises, but I don’t want to leave anyone out of the raises. We need to make this fair for everyone and not just exclude 18 people,” Bryan said. “If we do it that way then we’re opening a can of worms, and if I was one of those people excluded I’d be one with a can opener.”
City attorney Andy Wright said the city’s personnel rules and regulations, which were passed by ordinance, state they are supposed to give everyone a raise when doing a general pay increase, and excluding people could possibly raise a red flag or make the city liable for omitting people.
Warmath said she just wanted to give those people who were not considered for a raise in the budget process an opportunity for a pay increase.
Craighead said the council was “splitting hairs,” and cutting certain people out of the raises that stepped up and deserve it was wrong.
“If we do this I feel like we’re leading down the wrong path and direction for this city,” Craighead said.
Other changes to the ordinance include making the effective pay scale date Dec. 28 and stating employees had to be hired prior to Jan. 1 to receive the raise. Warmath said the $300 bonuses were a “moot point” and weren’t addressed in the amended ordinance, and everyone would receive them as usual.
Craighead also made it clear that the money for the raises were available due to the city’s recent increased sales tax revenue, and no money would have to be taken from a reserve fund or property tax.
The council voted 4-1, with Bryan the lone dissenter, to approve the amendments to the ordinance.
When the council voted for the ordinance on final reading, it again passed with the same 4-1 vote.
The council is also looking to draft another ordinance that would address those “permanent part-time” employees who could be eligible for a raise.
Democrat staff writer Caitlin Rickard contributed to this report.